Thailand is blessed with having a very strong and living artistic tradition that is firmly based on its Buddhist heritage, but not afraid to be innovative at the same time. I recently visited two large and well-supported temples in Petchabun Province that display both these characteristics.
The first temple is Wat Phrathat Phasornkaew (The Temple with a Buddha Relic, set in an Emerald Cliff) which is situated in Khao Kor in the hills about 5 hours north of Bangkok. The temple is a new foundation dating from 2004.
There are two main attractions at the temple, the first is a visionary Five-Buddha statue, representing the five Buddhas of the Fortunate Era, which will culminate with Metteyya Buddha, a long time in the future. Once seen, these statues, and their conception will stay with you.
The second is the Chedi built on the opposite hill, which has as many as five million pieces of ceramic decorating the exterior, as well as numerous beautiful and attractive conceptualisations in the various shrine rooms, including striking stained glass creations, and Nāgas built out of dried leaves.
The second temple is Wat Dhammayan (The Temple of the Dhamma Way), again founded on a large piece of land, having many temples, shrines and literally hundreds of statues.
The recently opened Ādi-Buddha, the First Buddha or Original Buddha (Somdet Ong Pathom) shrine is probably the main attraction by now. Although it houses just one magnificent statue, the conception of the shrine itself, and of the unusual Buddha it is home to, is well worth a visit.
But besides this, there is a very large hall opposite, with many fine statues inside, and another temple behind that one, which again has some very finely executed statutory, and large-scale Nāga statues which guard the entrance, and provide blessings to those who pass nearby.
To learn more about these temples, please see the albums themselves, which include further information, and views of the main features.